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The Association of Lawyers for Children (ALC) has expressed its concern over what it sees as the potentially devastating impact of the Government's refusal to increase the budget for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) after funding for the organisation was frozen for the second year running. Alistair MacDonald, joint chair of the ALC, said that the refusal to increase the budget for 2006/2007 was a cut in real terms by any economic yardstick: when taken with the additional obligations imposed upon CAFCASS by the Adoption and Children Act 2002, the Government's failure to increase the budget left CAFCASS struggling to meet an increased level of responsibility for children and families with no new resources to enable it to do so.
Citing concerns raised by the National Association of Guardians ad Litem and Reporting Officers (NAGALRO), that the constraints caused by the funding freeze would mean a cut in front line services to children, MacDonald stated that a failure to properly fund CAFCASS would only result in the country's most vulnerable children being denied the benefit of measures designed to protect their rights and ensure that their voices were heard within the family justice system. He called for the funding decision to be revisited, saying that the Government's Every Child Matters agenda and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 both constituted laudable advances for vulnerable children, but those advances would mean nothing on the ground if there were insufficient funds to ensure their implementation and effectiveness. The Government could not give with one hand and take with the other if there were to be an effective system of child protection.
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